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Ten Years of Musical MADness

Drexel became one of the first schools in the country to launch its own student-run record label tied to a degree program when MAD Dragon Records was born in 2003. The fledgling company entered the music industry waters at the brink of one its most tumultuous eras in history. Ten years later, the label is still afloat and continues to teach students by throwing them into the deep end.

MAD Dragon students work with members of the band The Company We Keep in Drexel’s recording studio.

This Friday’s MAD Dragon Records 10th Anniversary concert at the Trocadero celebrates the student-run label’s success during a time period when both the industry and medium of music went through a rapid evolution. In the midst of this tidal shift, MAD Dragon Records produced 32 titles from 17 artists that grossed more than 75,000 sales in digital downloads, CDs, 12- and seven-inch vinyl records.

Concurrently, Drexel’s music industry program turned out more than 280 graduates in the last 10 years, with more than half of them having worked at MAD Dragon Records and most of whom are currently employed in the music industry.

Here’s a look at how some of MAD Dragon Records’ most memorable moments played out –and sounded- over the last 10 years:

Pre-eminent songwriter, producer and creator of MTV’s “Unplugged,” Jules Shear, became the first artist to sign with MAD Dragon in the spring of 2003. Shear’s album “Dreams Don’t Count” and his association with MAD Dragon Records were featured in the New York Times on April 30, 2006. 

In the spring of 2005, MAD Dragon secured a distribution deal with Ryko Distribution (now Alternative Distribution Alliance), the largest independent distributor in the United States. The first MAD Dragon album distributed by Ryko was a compilation by Matt Duke, Trisha O’Keefe and Julia Othmer entitled “XYX.” Julia Othmer “Mission Control” from XYX (2008)

MAD Dragon and Matt Duke sign upstream agreement to partner with Rykodisc Records, one of the top national distribution companies, for future releases. The deal, which was MAD Dragon’s first upstream contract with a partner –in this case, a large indie label- affirmed the student label’s ability to find and nurture talent and solidified it as a breeding ground for independent artists.  Matt Duke “Oysters” from Winter Child (2006) 

Sean Hoots, Rob Berliner and Andrew Gray’s band Hoots & Hellmouth brought their unique brand of roots music to MAD Dragon, releasing their first two albums “Hoots & Hellmouth” (2007) and “The Holy Open Secret” (2009) with the label. The group’s self-titled album would go on to win an Independent Music Award for Best College Record Label Album. The group continues to be a successful touring act and mainstay on the Americana music scene. Hoots & Hellmouth “Home in a Boxcar” from Hoots & Hellmouth (2007)

In October of 2007, MAD Dragon Records signed The Redwalls for their third album “The Redwalls” after they were dropped by the Capitol Records when they merged with Virgin Records. The album went on to commercial success. The Redwalls performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and the Late Show with David Letterman in 2008. The Redwalls “Game of Love” from The Redwalls (2007).

Most recently, MAD Dragon continued its student-music-industry trailblazing by partnering with Motion City Soundtrack to curate a series of seven-inch vinyl records entitled “Making Moves.” The band and MAD Dragon’s student A&R committee selected five developing artists to be part of the series:  A Great Big Pile of Leaves, Brick + Mortar, Goldrush, The Skies Revolt and The Company We Keep. Students recorded the songs at Drexel’s studio, produced a feature documentary film on the making of the series and a turned it all into a box set as part of the release for the series. And in a project that is still on the horizon, MAD Dragon partnered with Island Def Jam/Photo Finish to release the tracks from Brick + Mortar’s contribution to Making Moves as part of a full-length album which is due out in 2013.  Brick + Mortar “Bangs” from Making Moves Vol. 2 (2012)

In 2012 MAD Dragon was nominated for five Independent Music Awards. Since its founding, the label has earned 35 nominations and produced winners in several categories.

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